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Threats of Future Teacher Strikes Force Government To The Table

UNITED KINGDOM: The National Teachers Union (NEU) have suspended further strikes for two weeks whilst their representatives negotiate with the government over a proposed pay increase. The NEU had announced a series of strikes on January 16 after it was revealed the UK government had failed to meet their pay increase demands in line with current inflation.


The NEU had accepted a 5% pay increase in September 2022 but argued, citing spiralling national inflation and years of pay freezes, that 5% equated to a real terms wage reduction. LBC estimates that since former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced a teacher pay rise freeze of 1% per year in 2011, teacher salaries have fallen by ‘11% between 2010 and 2022,’ a figure that the NEU disputes as 20%.


The National Association of Headteachers Union (NAHT) had warned in November 2022 that the spiralling energy bill crisis and government cuts to the mental health provision were wreaking havoc on budgets. The Department of Education had agreed to further pay increases, stipulating that they must be funded from preexisting school budgets, exacerbating schools already weakened budgets. 


Many teachers have found the cuts untenable, with Department of Education statistics suggesting that ‘one in three’ qualified teachers have left the profession since Mr. Osbourne’s price freeze. The NEU stated that expecting teachers to proceed with the government’s most recent proposal constituted ‘madman economics’.


Upon striking, the National Teachers Union joined the NHS and The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) as they battled with the government in disputes over pay cuts and pensions. On Wednesday, 1 February, all three unions combined for the largest walkout since the 1980s. Over half a million nurses, teachers, rail and postal workers, were said to have taken part.


After seeing the success of the strikes, the NAHT have also considered striking should the NEU’s two week suspension fall through. Despite an 87% approval rating for strikes among members, the NAHT were legally prevented from striking due to failing the 50% turnout bar required of all major vote action. The NAHT Cymru did, however, join the NEU in striking. 


In an open letter, Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan was dismissive of the NEU strikes, stating that she thought they were ‘completely unnecessary’ and that it was the children who were suffering. Growing resentment amongst teachers, however, ensures that should the government renege on their promises of furthering negotiations, then the NEU would quickly return to picket lines.


Edited by: Alanna Fullerton

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Tags: #UnitedKingdom #NHS #NEU #RMT #Conservatives #NAHT #TeacherStrike #NEUCymru #GillianKeegan


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